Green Book to the Best of Enemies- Poverty Skolaz in Film

Tiny - Posted on 04 May 2019

From Green Book to the Best of Enemies 

Poverty Skolaz in Movies 


“Put that fruit back,” says Mahershala Ali as the pianist Don Shirley to Viggo Mortensen as Frank "Tony the Lip" Vallelonga in the movie Green Book, with controlled disdain for Tony. Tony’s casual theft of an apple from an outdoor fruit stand could either be seen as the privilege of a “wite” man who isn’t constantly predated, watched and poLiced, like all melenated/african peoples are every ]day in amerikkka- or an “act” of food liberation common among urban poor folks of all colors, who have had to liberate, abscond or steal food all of our lives just to eat. The gaze of Don Shirley who as the movie shows had overt disdain for many of Tony’s obviously working class (read:ghetto) behavior was a constant theme in the movie, causing fights between the characters and culminating in series of dangerous encounters with racists, classist and poLice across the Deep South tour they were on.


These moments of race and class consciousness and conflict were threaded through the entire production of Green Book. Which is one of the many reasons I don’t agree with Spike Lee and others that critique Green Book as only a feel good Wite Man/Black Man story. Driving Miss Daisy 2019….. (LOL tho) 


But that said, both Green Book, Blindspotting earlier this year and another recent release The Best of Enemies are actually incisive illustrations of the ways us Po folks understand and overstand one another way beyond our melanin count and the very specific way that in amerikkklan race and poverty are intrinsically linked and the fact that poverty scholarship, ( poor folks leading our own movements, telling our own unfiltered stories, art, etc) is rarely if ever shown in almost all Hollywood depictions, maybe because the writers, and producers have , as my Mama Dee would always say, never missed a meal themselves, the same way that so many of the art, education and media forms rarely if ever include our voices as leaders, writers and producers. 


And oddly in contrast to some movies repping purely race/identity politic such as US and the newest sloppy production called The Intruder, a Black krapitalism image of success is viewed as natural “cues” that the Black protagonists are like everyone else . That they all “made it” cause they have country homes, high paid jobs, wite friends and condominiums in deeply gentrifUKEd neighborhoods like San Francisco where the Intruder was set  


Whereas Green Book and The Best of Enemies culminated with examples of post-colonial culture, art and inter-dependence . In Green Book its seen as Tony’s  indigenous interdependent, multi-generational, Italian culture of connected-ness versus the isolation of accumulation- depicted in Don Shirley’s huge, empty New York penthouse filled with African Iconography and art but no people. And in Best of Enemies, poverty skolaz join forces to fight the over-arching wealth-hoarding “wite Citizen’s council.” Showing the real “power/force/hate was the wealthy, more “civilized” wite people who didn’t need to wear hoods to destroy Black peoples lives


Green Book is about  race and class and the ways they are intimately connected, about Black culture, Italian culture and the cross- race culture of poverty, which believe it or not is, as my sister. Po poet and welfareQUEEN and educator, poverty skola jewnbug says, is a culture too ! And the reason a lot of Black Scholars can’t see that aspect is they are middle-class themselves, perhaps having a poverty skola in their past but really working hard as possible to distance themselves from all that  is “ghetto”


The relationship conflicts at their most superfificial reading is the fact that Don Shirley is black and Tony is Wite, and Ann Atwater is Black and CP Ellis is wite. But what is revealed is their connectedness over struggle, oppression, and forced treatment, in many ways completely trumps the purity of race and racism and actually lifts up interdependence and community and consciousness.


In The Best of Enemies the thing Badass organizer and revolutionary poverty skola Ann Atwater, played with smooth precision by Taraji and Klan member C.P Ellis, played beautifully by Sam Rockwell,  bond over is class, poverty and disability, in fact, not only do they reluctantly realize that they understand each other, they have very similar problems and concerns.


Whereas in the Intruder, the “past” which could be one of poverty of one of the main characters of witnessing his brother shot at 12 years old is completely subverted as only a tale of why he is afraid of guns and in fact his character wants nothing to do with his past and is constantly tryin to become as “rich” as possible.


As a formerly houseless poverty skola from LA who with mama were movie junkies ( bad, good or indifferent) I can’t even watch un-critiqued wealth-hoarders/fake veneer of middle class lyfe in film and I would suggest all poverty skolaz see Green Book and Best of Enemies and challenge Hollywood to actually create a story about poor people creating their own solutions outside of krapitalism and poLice and the cult of independence…. ummm that sounds oddly like the POOR Magazine/Homefulness/Deecolonize Academy movie, which I guess we Po folks might have to do ourselves to get it right…


In the mean-time run don't walk to the screening of local poverty skolaz and POOR magazine family Audrey Candy Corn, Peter Menchini, Amir and Ziair's new film Soar Torian Soar which will show on June 8th at the Roxie Theatre as part of the Indie FIlm Fest.



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